On Tuesday, 16th of March, after six months and 8 million positive COVID-19 cases, a group of medical researchers from the UK’s Oxford University gave the world a breath of fresh air. They announced an amazing result from their clinical trial that dexamethasone, a widely available steroid, can help high-risk COVID-19 patients recover quickly. They claim that the corticosteroid reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill COVID-19 patients.
The U.K. government has approved the treatment of patients with dexamethasone which costs just £5 ($6). Even The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has hailed the announcement as good news. He has congratulated the UK government for the research saying, “This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough.
“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support.”
The World Health Organization is urging the public to be cautious about dexamethasone as information on its use as a treatment for Covid-19 is still in the preliminary stages.
Results from the RECOVERY trial at the University of Oxford were “very significant,” but it was only one study according to Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, who said that they have to “see the real data, the full data”.
American doctors have urged caution over the findings emphasizing on the recent withdrawal of the experimental use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment. Dr Kathryn Hibbert, director of the intensive care unit at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital mentioned in the British journal saying, “We have been burned before, not just during the coronavirus pandemic but even pre-Covid, with exciting results that when we have access to the data are not as convincing.”
Pandu Riono, a public health expert from the University of Indonesia, urged the public not to buy the drug for individual treatment.
“The drug cannot be taken carelessly,” Panji said that dexamethasone is not meant to be consumed regularly due to the risk of side effects such as a bloated face to internal organ damage. He warned that the drug must be taken on strict medical supervision.
World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also stated that dexamethasone is exclusively for “seriously ill and critical patients who can benefit from this drug clearly”.
Justin Denholm, Associate Professor at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, said if you’ve only got mild symptoms like a runny nose or a sore throat, it wouldn’t be effective.
“This medication works by reducing inflammation..The sickest people – those in intensive care needing ventilators – those were the ones getting the most benefits from it.”
It is significant that the results for dexamethasone were found in a randomised clinical trial – where patients who had the drug are compared with those who didn’t.
Clearly, self medication is out of the question. Nigerians, who risk self medication due to their comatose health institutions, risk having organ poisoning when taken for a prolonged time. Dexamethasone appears not to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus whose breathing are still manageable.
Dexamethasone vs Hydroxychloroquine
Previous drugs which were touted as cures for coronavirus have not been through this type of rigorous study before being declared beneficial. Recently, the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was presented by French researcher Didier Raoult and promoted by the President of the United States. Observations clearly showed that hydroxychloroquine is associated with an increased risk of death in COVID-19 patients.
The Oxford researchers who identified dexamethasone as an effective treatment had to stop the study of hydroxychloroquine due to a “lack of efficacy”. Hydroxychloroquine has been withdrawn by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of COVID-19.
Dexamethasone vs Madagascar herbal cure
The Minister of Health of Nigeria, Dr Osagie Ehanire has stated that the federal government of Nigeria is yet to receive a report from research centres about the efficacy of the recently imported Madagascar herbal cure.
According to Dr. Ehanire, “We do not have any information yet. We have given them to our research centres and they are working on them. None of them has reported back yet.
“The time it will take for all these researches is not what we know, but I think after a period, I will reach out to them to find out if they can give me an interim report.”
Without mincing words, dexamethasone has no effect on covid-19 infection. The drug effect is on the severe inflammation caused by the body’s aggressive immune body response which triggers violent reactions in the body. Another rumour debunked is that dexamethasone is NOT a vaccine.